If you had a sudden gift of a $1,000 ad budget, would you know how to spend it?
Would you know how to spend it effectively?
If you are a small business owner looking to market your business online, then you’ve already considered (or are considering) paid advertising.
However, spending an ad budget effectively and with measurable results isn’t easy. There are tons of unanswered questions:
- Which platform would you use?
- Is that where your customers are?
- What are your customers searching for?
- Do you know who your customer is?
What I’m offering here are the answers to one question:
Which type of paid advertising will help your particular business?
And, along the way, you’ll have to answer the question,
Who is your customer?
Overview of Types of Advertising (Online)
Okay, I lied. I’m going to give you a quick overview so you know where you stand, and what the options are.
Search Engine Ads
These ads are shown actively to individuals searching for particular keywords in several different places in search engines.
Social Media Ads
These ads are shown passively to individuals who are browsing these platforms viewing unrelated content.
- Facebook Advertising
- LinkedIn Advertising
- YouTube TrueView Ads
- Twitter Ads
- Instagram Ads
- Snapchat Ads
- Tumbler Sponsored Posts
- Pinterest Promotional Pins
These ads are actively shown to individuals searching for particular keywords or services in particular locations within these specific directories.
These ads are shown passively to individuals who are browsing affiliated websites viewing unrelated content.
In order to advertise on a search engine, you have to specify which searches you want to have your ad show up in. For instance, if you’re a plumber in the Arlington, Virginia area advertising on Google Ads, then you will select the keywords which you want to target (e.g. “plumbers near arlington va,” “emergency plumbing near me,” etc.). Then, Google will show your ad to someone in that location who types in one of your target keywords.
In order to advertise on a social media platform, you have to choose the audience you want to show your ad to, and then the social media platform will show its audience members who are most similar to your selected audience. For example, on Facebook, you would select the age, location, buying habits, interests, education level, etc. of your target audience, and then Facebook would show your ad to its users who best match your target, in the specified location.
Advertising in directories is similar to advertising in search engines because the types of individuals using the directory are already looking specifically for someone who offers your services. On Houzz, for instance, a directory dedicated to home remodeling and design, the only people using this directory are people who are interested in home remodeling (e.g. looking for carpenters, landscape designers, handyman services, etc.). Thus, you get a much more specified audience.
Display ads are those ads you see on the side of websites you visit, and are specifically targeted to you based on your search history. Thus, in order to advertise using display ads, you select the types of interests your target audience may have (i.e. searching for car insurance, recently viewed new Toshiba laptops online, etc.) and then, using a service like Google Display Network, your ads will show up on a variety of Google partner sites to users who match your criteria.
So, to briefly sum up:
- You can advertise on search engines (highly targeted advertising, with searchers actively looking for what you’re offering)
- You can advertise on social media (targeting ranges from broad to highly targeted, with searchers not searching for what you’re offering)
- You can advertise on directories (targeted advertising, with searchers actively looking for what you’re offering)
- You can advertise on display ads (less targeted advertising, with searchers not searching for what you’re offering)
Depending on what you’re offering and who you’re offering it to, these different types of advertising all have their place. Now it’s a matter of narrowing down which one is best for your industry.
How Do Your Customers Search?
Now that you have an overview of the different routes you can go with online advertising, and broadly speaking understand the behavior of individuals those types of advertising are marketing to, it’s time to reflect on how your customers search.
Sometimes a target audience feels so broad, it isn’t helpful, i.e. “homeowners.” However, figuring out the details of your target audience can come later. While you still might be unclear on who exactly your customer is, you definitely know some things about who your customer is, and how they search.
Here’s an example:
If you’re a locksmith offering emergency locksmith services, then you know that people are finding you only through search, when they are in desperate need of your services. They are using a search engine, and they are going to click on the first link that looks helpful.
In this situation, you will want to use search engine ads.
If you are a custom home builder, then you know that no one builds a house on a whim. They look at a bunch of different companies’ websites, view their photo galleries, browse through their photos on social media, and could potentially take several months or years to actually call a company.
In this situation, it could be helpful to use both search engine ads (actively targeting people searching for custom home builders), as well as social media ads (showing your galleries and ads to people who are interested in your service).
What you’re really trying to do in this exercise is identify how your audience searches. If your product or service is something which attracts “wallets-out” customers, then perhaps it’s best to target specific searches on search engines. If your product or service is more of a luxury or “extra” service, then perhaps it’s best to show people who are interested, but who aren’t necessarily looking to purchase at that moment.
Google has categorized all of their searches into three categories, which are perhaps useful here. They categorize all search queries into informational search, transactional searches, and navigational searches.
Are your customers searching with phrases like “how to?” If so, then they will be shown tutorials. Other informational searches might return news articles, videos, and blog posts (e.g. special election results). These searchers aren’t directly looking to buy anything, they simply want to get more information on their question.
Are your customers searching with phrases related to products or services? If so, then they will be shown Amazon, e-commerce stores, and other websites which offer the product they’re looking for (e.g. red nike sneakers).
Are your customers searching with phrases related to their location? If so, then they will be shown the closest business which offers the service they’re looking for (e.g. lawn care near me).
Who Uses These Platforms?
Now that we know how your customers search, it’s time to reflect on who uses the platforms which match how your customers search. For the sake of continuity, I’ll continue using the second example given above, of the custom home builder.
The customers for this type of business are not “wallets-out” customers, ready to purchase from the first company listed in the results.
So he’ll probably want to use both search engine ads and social media ads. But which platforms should he use? It depends on his customer – what types of people are they, and what platforms do those types of people use?
Here’s a quick rundown of the basic demographics of different platforms:
Search Engines (Google & Bing)
As the two search engines with the largest market share, Google and Bing are likely the only two search engines worth comparing. If you want to reach people who are using search engines to find your services, which should you focus on? Who uses which search engine?
The short answer is “Most people use Google.”
However, there are some interesting demographic differences which might be useful, depending on your industry.
According to a survey conducted by Eli Schwartz, the Director of International Marketing for SurveyMonkey, Google has close to 85-90% of the market share, and even higher for smartphone searches.
Google has close to 85-90% of the market share
This is contrary to previous reports, which indicated that Google had around 65% of market share.
The difference is huge.
if Bing has only 10-15% of market share, then it’s best to focus the bulk of your advertising efforts on Google. If Bing has 33% of market share, then perhaps you should spend a sizable chunk of time advertising there.
Some other interesting information on who uses Google and who uses Bing: the majority of Google users were under 45 years old, and the majority of Bing users were 45+. This makes sense given that most searches on Bing are made using the Internet Explorer browser. Internet Explorer is the default browser for all Microsoft products, so it is not surprising that most users are likely older individuals who are unfamiliar with downloading a new browser (like Google Crome or Firefox).
Are you looking to target ONLY older individuals? Then perhaps spend more time advertising on Bing. If not, stick with Google.
Depending on the product or service you’re selling, activity on these different social media outlets will vary in effectiveness for you.
For instance, if you are a custom home builder, then photos of your completed houses, schematics, and 3D mock-ups on Pinterest might be useful, because Pinterest is dominated by women (only 17% of online men use Pinterest), and 45% of online women use Pinterest. Additionally, Pinterest tends to be used by those who have higher incomes, which also match your target market. As a custom home isn’t an impulsive purchase, the ability to “pin” photos you like to your personal boards makes Pinterest a good place for you to be.
However, if you’re in a local service area business, like a waste removal company, then being on Facebook might be a better option for you.
Firstly, waste removal isn’t exactly a visually pleasing industry, so shying away from visual social media is a good idea. On Facebook, you can garner reviews and show up in local business searches in Facebook groups. The numbers simply make sense for most local service businesses: 65+% of 30-65+ year olds use Facebook, and over 75% of all men and women online use Facebook. This is where people are, especially older people (more likely to be homeowners, and have the financial capability to purchase your services).
Over 75% of all men and women online use Facebook
The point is, there is data on who uses each of the social media platforms, and you should tie your advertising strategy to the platform that your customers and target audiences use and are most likely to be on.
Here are fuller data points on who uses which social media platform:
1.15 Billion Daily Active Users
88% of 18–29 year olds use Facebook.
84% of 30–49 year olds use Facebook.
72% of 50–64 year old use Facebook.
62% of 65+ year old use Facebook.
83% of online women use Facebook.
75% of online men use Facebook.
81% of adults living in urban areas use Facebook.
81% of adults living in rural areas use Facebook.
77% of adults living in suburban areas use Facebook.
82% of adults with some college experience use Facebook.
79% of adults who graduated college use Facebook.
77% of adults with a high school diploma or less use Facebook.
84% of adults who make less than $30,000 use Facebook.
80% of adults who make between $30,000–$49,999 use Facebook.
75% of adults who make over $75,000 use Facebook.
77% of adults who make between $50,000–$74,999 use Facebook.
133 Million U.S. Users
34% of 18–29 year olds use LinkedIn.
33% of 30–49 year olds use LinkedIn.
24% of 50–64 year olds use LinkedIn.
20% of 65+ year olds use LinkedIn.
31% of online men use LinkedIn.
27% of online women use LinkedIn.
34% of adults in urban areas use LinkedIn.
30% of adults in suburban areas use LinkedIn.
18% of adults in rural areas use LinkedIn.
50% of adult college graduates use LinkedIn.
27% of adults with some college experience use LinkedIn.
12% of adults with a high school diploma or less use LinkedIn.
45% of adults making over $75,000 use LinkedIn.
32% of adults making $50,000–$74,999 use LinkedIn.
21% of adults making less than $30,000 use LinkedIn.
13% of adults making $30,000–$49,999 use LinkedIn.
800 Million Users
59% of 18–29 year olds use Instagram.
33% of 30–49 year olds use Instagram.
18% of 50–64 year olds use Instagram.
8% of people 65+ use Instagram.
38% of online women use Instagram.
28% of online men use Instagram.
39% of adults living in urban areas use Instagram.
31% of adults living in rural areas use Instagram.
28% of adults living in suburban areas use Instagram.
37% of adults with some college experience use Instagram.
33% of adults who graduated college use Instagram.
27% of adults with a high school diploma or less use Instagram.
38% of adults who make less than $30,000 use Instagram.
37% of adults who make more than $75,000 use Instagram.
32% of adults who make $30,000–$49,999 use Instagram.
32% of adults who make $49,999–$74,999 use Instagram.
69 Million U.S. Monthly Active Users
36% of 18–29 year olds use Twitter.
23% of 30–49 year olds use Twitter.
21% of 50–64 year olds use Twitter.
10% of 65+ year olds use Twitter.
25% of online women use Twitter.
24% of online men use Twitter.
26% of adults in urban areas use Twitter.
24% of adults in suburban areas use Twitter.
24% of adults in rural areas use Twitter.
29% of adults who graduated college use Twitter.
25% of adults with some college experience use Twitter.
20% adults with a high school diploma or less use Twitter.
30% of adults who make over $75,000 use Twitter.
28% of adults who make $50,000–$74,999 use Twitter.
23% of adults who make less than $30,000 use Twitter.
18% of adults who make $30,000–$49,999 use Twitter.
75 Million U.S. Monthly Active Users
36% of 18–29 year olds use Pinterest.
34% of 30–49 year olds use Pinterest.
28% of 50–64 year olds use Pinterest.
16% of 65+ year olds use Pinterest.
45% of online women use Pinterest.
17% of online men use Pinterest.
34% of adults in suburban areas use Pinterest.
30% of adults in urban areas use Pinterest.
25% of adults in rural areas use Pinterest.
34% of adult college graduates use Pinterest.
34% of adults with some college experience use Pinterest.
22% of adults with a high school diploma or less use Pinterest.
35% of adults making over $75,000 use Pinterest.
32% of adults making $30,000–$49,999 use Pinterest.
31% of adults making $50,000–$74,999 use Pinterest.
30% of adults making less than $30,000 use Pinterest.
What Type of Business Are You?
So, have you narrowed down what search engine or social media platform you should advertise on?
Here are some questions to help narrow down where you should be:
- Is my service a necessity or a luxury?
- Is my target market 45+?
- Are my best clients making ~$50,000 / year, ~$75,000 / year, or more?
- Is my service one where people would want to see pictures of it (i.e. landscaping, custom home building, etc.)?
In order to definitively answer this question, you will want to develop a robust idea of your target market and the defining characteristics of individuals in it. Here’s a great article on how to do that: The Niche Challenge.
Any questions, or not sure where to start?
Send me an email at email@example.com, and I will take a look at your business and give you some thoughts on the best platforms to run your ads.
William is Director of Marketing at Enable. William is passionate about sales and marketing, and is always looking for more efficient ways to do both. When he’s not creating new content for Enable, you can find him spending time with his family and friends.